Does an e-mail substitute for a conversation?

This happens to be a major frustration of mine. Rather than a meaningful face to face or over the phone conversation, people launch a cryptic e-mail. And many times this e-mail is not respectful or considerate. I happen to be one of those odd people who will always return an e-mail or a voice mail and only on rare occasions do I flake out. However it has gotten to the point that I actually send people thank you e-mails or voice mails for actually responding to me. What has happened to courtesy in our relationships? Are we really so very busy that others are of no importance? What I of course would far rather see all too often is someone walk down the hall and talk with me directly. Far less misunderstandings etc. And we build relationships and we learn and we build trust and we actually save lots of time.

So here is John’s rule for communication. If it is only data or something that must be documented, or distance or time zones are an issue, then an e-mail will do. If it is at all important or urgent, at the very least launch a voice mail. But if distances or time zones are not an issue, stand up and go talk with the person.

So what are your pet peeves on communication and where does conversation play a role for you? Have great conversations this week.


2 replies
  1. Wetherhaven
    Wetherhaven says:

    And Ray, certainly social styles and learning styles do play a role in the mix. I had this very conversation with a group of IT folks at our corporate office this week and many were far more comfortable with digital communication than others. With that said, I still believe that we humans need to reach out and connect anyway that we can so that we will create the complex communities of practice that I believe we need to thrive in this complex world. Digital is an important part of that but we should not lose our ability to reach out and connect person to person. Great input and thank you so much for joining the conversation.

    Your friend John

  2. Ray
    Ray says:

    Hi John,
    I can related generally to your comments in this post, and I too lament that more people miss the opportunity for letting their humanity show through.

    Happily, not all of my email communications have been of that sort. I’ve had the pleasure of asking big questions and receiving very thoughtful and detailed responses; much more thoughtful and detailed than I ever experienced in conversations that took the same amount of time these email exchanges took.

    And I have to say that in many cases the time and care I took to craft my responses produced much better and clearer content than I’ve ever produced in off-the-top-of-my-head “conversation”.

    I’m finding it ironic that our 21st Century technology (through blogging, social networks and email) is fostering a return to excellence in written ommunication that sustained commerce and learning for centuries before our modern era.

    Ray Cobel

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